I just returned from a trip to London, where I had the exquisite opportunity to read Harm de Blij’s The Power of Place.
It is a fascinating book. In many ways it is a counter point to Thomas Friedman. I’m a big Friedman fan. His last book; Hot, Flat and Crowded was a manifesto for what America needs to be doing right now.
And I am with him.
But The Power of Place puts Friedman into a new perspective.
De Blij is a geographer. And a demographer. And an academic. One of his points is that the world is only getting “flatter” for a tiny percentage of the population.
De Blij borrows heavily from Buckminster Fuller’s “Spaceship Earth,” and breaks down the planet’s inhabitants into “Locals,” “mobals,” and “globals.” The overwhelming percentage of people die in the same country they were born in. He calls them “locals.”
I married a “local” girl. That makes me an authority on the subject. If I were a character in Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, I would be the guy with “my foot caught in the door.”
De Blij would score me as a “mobal.” That is, someone who crosses a national boundary in search of a better life. A risk taker. A place changer. He is kind to “mobals.” It is a much kinder term than “dirty immigrant.”
My poor daughter does not qualify as a debutante because I am an immigrant to this country.
I am currently flirting with New Society on writing a third book. The potential title is Industrial Evolution, and the notion of “place” is inescapable.
One of the topics I will need to cover is Chatham County’s response to our project. As a place, Pittsboro has been forced to respond to our undertakings–many of which have never been encountered before.
Chatham County is funny. The Internet is supposed to have offered us a flattened world. But in Chatham it has been used to build and defend parochial views. Our online presence is characterized by armchair quarterbacks and lovers of the status quo who like to spit poison on anything new or different.
De Blij would nod in agreement. “Flattening” doesn’t just happen. Most of the world remains as round as it ever was. I was intrigued by the book. I thought it was tight, well written, and certainly worth reading. It will be in the library on Monday. New additions to the library include: A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton, The Solar Century by Jeremy Legett and Common Wealth by Jeffrey Sachs.